Recognising home-based women labourers

25 Jul

A BUREAU report (July 19) stated that about 12 million home-based women workers are not recognised as labourers in Pakistan.

Pakistani women are engaged in home-based work in garment, embellishment, bangle-making, shoe stitching, embroidery, carpet weaving, jewellery, leather products, steel scissors, mobile covers, preparing dry fruit and shelling prawns.

While economic conditions compel women to work in their homes in order to meet day-to-day expenses, they earn between Rs10 and Rs50 (less than one dollar) a day and put in 12 to 16 hours.

The government has not developed any social or economic policy or programme for home-based women workers. According to the constitution, women are guaranteed rights to enter into any business, but when we review the labour laws, we find there is not even a single applicable one.

Home-based workers are not covered by the definition of a worker under the Payment of Wages Act 1936, West Pakistan Shops and Establishment Act 1969, Industrial Relations Ordinance 1969 and the Maternity Benefits Ordinance 1958 and Employees Old Age Benefits Act.

The Home-Based Work Convention 1996 (C-177), was adopted by ILO in June 1996. This convention recognised the importance of home-based workers, their contribution to the global economy and the need to protect their rights as workers, but the convention has not yet been ratified by Pakistan.

Poor rural women should not be treated merely as ‘target’ groups of social welfare programmes. Rural women will gain proportionally more if investment allocations and development efforts are shifted in their favour; they can go from a situation of being triply disadvantaged to one in which their contribution will have multiplier effect, in the household, in the community, nationally and most important of all in the future generation. The status of poor rural women has to be assessed economically, socially and culturally.

Now, with the devolution of the labour ministry to provinces, it is the responsibility of the provincial government to address these issues.

Every year on May Day and International Women’s Day, women workers take to the streets across the country to remind policymakers that they should be counted as workers and that their rights should be recognised.

Women are not asking for charity — like the Benazir Income Support Programme — but to be recognised as labourers under the labour laws. Please give them their right.

This was originally published in Dawn newspaper on July 25, 2011.

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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Letters



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